Tag Archives: Soho

Sad, lovely Soho

A few months ago, very few -I posted about my shock in realising that most of the Soho that I had always loved had turned into streets full of chain cafes and bars. I didn’t mention the discount (TK Trash etc.) and junk shops, though I could have. The most awful thing was realising that less than 5 months later one of the few surviving places I had photographed – Jimmy’s – has also closed now.

The Independent has an article about it:


The landlords are agog at the prices that can be charged in London becuase London has a never ending supply of tourists who have no idea the difference between a chain and a proper shop. Nor would I, if I didn’t live here.

Here’s my short list of  my favourite independent businesses in London, that I use often,  in no special order:

  • Camden Lock Books  http://camdenlockbooks.com/ used to be on the lock but now in Old St Station.
  • Haggerston Tea Rooms Haggerston Rd
  • Broadway Books broadway market
  • Morganics Organics shop and cafe
  • the TFS Turkish Food Store in Dalston a supermarket
  • Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho
  • FOPP (Ok it is a chain but a very small one!)
  • just about every cafe and restaurant on the Kingsland road
  • Lorelei in Soho, more for coffee as I don’t eat pizza
  • the Prince Charles Cinema
  • the Rio Cinema
  • Bradley’s  North Soho
  • West End Camera
  • Anderson’s Bakery Hoxton

Anderson's Hoxton

Bradleys Soho

but there are a few chains I do like, such as Jessops – reliable and good service, though I wish they’d up their analogue division at least int he New Oxford St store; Maplin also. I can’t fault them. On the other hand they are specialists in what they do.

It just scares me to think of central London just getting blanded out of existence.

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a little walk in Soho

Today I was walking around in London going from Oxford St to the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square (to see Melancholia, which is a great film) and I walked through Soho which I hadn’t done for quite a while. Usually my route goes through Covent Garden but today I made a change.

Soho used to be a big part of my life; when I was at film school I used to hang out there a lot. After that I worked there off and on and at all kinds of production houses (the good, the bad and the ugly). I used to eat there, drink there party there. From about the mid 2000s I went less and less. Today as I wandered through with a bit of time to spare I noticed how much of Soho has been sanitized, stripped of its traditional louche character. I don’t mean I feel nostalgia for prostitution and “vice” etc. (though as I never had anything to do with all that maybe I’m not the one suitable to pronounce on on it), I just mean the dodgy but somehow charming little bars that used to exist in hidden alleys and up – or down – dark staricases.

To the eye the principal visual manifestation is notably the presence of chains. Mainly cafes and bar chains replacing the old cafes and bars that used to be there. (I have no issue with chains that sell useful things like Ryness!) I started to take snaps of them. I was glad to see that some things, like Bar Italia and the Lorelei are all still there. I didn’t stop for coffee this time but I waxed nostalgic to come back and do just that next time I come for a movie.

Chinatown has really improved a lot from the days when I used to eat regularly at the old Wong Kei (and was never treated rudely, despite its reputation). It’s bursting with colour. I don’t eat Chinese food anymore, but it was nice to hang out here and bathe in the lights.

This building is odd though, so sparse. It looks like it could exist anywhere on the planet, any Chinatown:

This vending machine is intriguing:

This is what I love in Soho, newspapers from all over the world.

This is what I don’t like. Betting shops:

Such hives of depressingness. Ugly, their livery unmistakeable and soul destroying on every single street in the nation. Oh, probably not in Chelsea…

This photo is a bit fun, the one fellow in cricket outfit (!?) the other in his chef’s togs.

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